Read My Man Godric Online

Authors: R. Cooper

My Man Godric

My Man Godric

 

By R. Cooper

 

 

 

My Man Godric

Copyright 2012 by R. Cooper

Published by R. Cooper at Smashwords

 

 

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters,
places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination
or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons,
living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is
entirely coincidental.

 

 

 

 

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Table of Contents

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Epilogue-Honey Cake

About the author

 

 

 

 

For Jane Davitt

 

 

 

 

Although
Bertie had lived this moment over and over in his mind during the
past two long months and dreamed it to keep himself warm at night
and to stay hopeful during the day, the moment itself was a blur of
sick worry, dizzying weariness, and the one overriding thought that
he must look a mess.

Not just a mess, but a wreck. The crazy
disaster that he was known for being, even if he had never before
in his life been so dirty, or so tired, or dressed so terribly. Not
even as a child had his hair been so tangled and stiff with dirt,
his fingernails broken and stained, his clothing rough. He had not
even had the time to attend to the fit of his borrowed clothing and
the sleeves still did not reach past his wrists, leaving his hands
numb and red with cold.

Distantly, he was still somewhat upset about
that last point though he was aware it was shallow and stupid to
fret over the fit of clothing borrowed from kind people and worn
for the sake of survival. But there was almost nothing in the world
so lovely as fine, soft clothes made from cloth bright as a
butterfly’s wing. At home he would have embroidered the detail of
robes and breeches, and cut and sewn his attire himself to his
height, and mad and useless though he was, no one could deny that
he had looked beautiful enough to have his pick of lovers.

But rainbow-hued weaves of satin didn’t suit
hiding in dark forests and wild mountain ranges anymore than thin
linens suited the icy air that signaled winter’s approach.

He would have had to resort to borrowed
clothing in any event, as his finest cloak, alas, was now in two
pieces and draped over the shoulders of the Widow Flanders’ two
small children, his second finest over the Widow herself. Noble
though the cause, his skin itched and burned with every step where
it had been rubbed raw by coarse material and it was one more
reason aside from his vanity to lament the loss of his things.

His very first day in these clothes he had
decided that he would see to better clothing for his own servants
the moment the opportunity was available, and he reaffirmed that
decision to himself now. His people should be dressed in material
that was warm and thick and soft and fitted to them, so no children
went cold and no one else was driven crazy by the rough scratch of
this horrible brown wool.

Ahead of him was the largest tent in the
camp, the door flap already partially opened and spilling orange
light over Bertie and the people waiting behind him. With so many
waiting for him to move, it was even more selfish and shallow and
stupid, but he wasted another moment hoping there was a vast and
soft feather bed on the other side of that door flap, along with
water for a hot bath. He wanted those more than he wanted food
though his stomach was making a nuisance of itself once again.

He patted his chest soothingly and then
threw aside the thin cloak that had been loaned to him by one of
the three stern soldiers that rode guard around his far too small
band of survivors. He immediately shivered at the cold evening air,
or perhaps at the thought of those left behind, though he couldn’t
let himself dwell on that, not now. Beyond the doorway lay safety,
rescue, and the love of his life. He knew that, but he stopped with
his hand out, letting the warmth that radiated out from inside the
tent reach his clumsy, half-frozen fingers. He shivered again. This
truly was not how he’d meant things to go.

Godric’s captain, the blond-haired,
perpetually unhappy man-at-arms at Bertie’s side paused too, quite
obviously stopping himself from prodding Bertie forward, perhaps
recalling Bertie’s rank just in time.

Bertie’s rank was a thing that Bertie had a
feeling many forgot, either due to his dress or his careless
manners, but Bertie had never much minded the slights. He was well
aware that he had no talent for governance or war craft as his
brother had. The opinions of others, of
most
others, had
long since ceased to matter much to him.

Nonetheless, he opened his mouth to lick his
regrettably cracked and dry lips. Wiping a hand over his face and
feeling stubble at his jaw made him wince, as did the quick
finger-comb of his short hair. Even with his reputation, knowing
the world often thought him useless, the king’s illegitimate
half-brother, the princeling with a love of needlework and feminine
clothing, at this moment, he could not help but fret over his
appearance and wish himself someone else, someone braver and more
worthy.

Then he heard the children behind him
suppress a tired complaint and an elderly steward shift against the
branch that had served as his crutch, and he raised his chin and
stopped his dithering. The captain next to him seemed to still and
Bertie glanced at him, narrowing his eyes in a fair approximation
of his brother’s manner.

His tone however, was all his own.

“You will see to my people, will you not,
Captain?” he inquired sweetly, imploringly, and yet well aware that
he would not be denied. He did not wait for the inevitable
agreement. There was only one answer any man could give to
Aethelbert of Clas Draigoch, and that was
yes
.

Unless of course that man was Godric of the
South.

Bertie put a hand to his stomach to quell
its excitement, though heat was rising in his cheeks and he was
trembling like the last remaining leaves in the trees around
them.

Godric
.

He pushed inside the tent with sudden
impatience, forgetting about both his fears and his impossible
fantasies of collapsing into his beloved’s arm the moment he
realized he would actually get to
see
Godric if he moved
forward. Godric was here. Close and real and alive.

Also probably irritated with Bertie as
usual. He would be polite, spare with his words, but distant.

Bertie stumbled at the thought, worn to the
bone, but held up a hand to ward off attempts to help him so he
could look past the council of knights gathered around a table. He
ignored every startled look of recognition and surprised, hurried
bow until he found his target, his treasure, the straightening
figure at the other end of the room.

Sir Godric of the South. The hero of Bohdon.
The Master of the Horse and Captain of the King’s Guard. Stable boy
turned soldier turned knight, honored and feared even in the lands
beyond the sea for his courage and wisdom, and, if rumor were true,
the one man the king turned to for honesty aside from his foolish,
bastard brother, and the one man the Green Men from the East were
said to want dead more than any other.

He was, on his feet, about half a head
shorter than most of the other men in the room and mere inches
shorter than the Hereditary Count Vonridii, the lone woman present.
He had untamed pale hair, rich with silver, which thinned slightly
above the temples, and piercing eyes for all that their color was
an unremarkable brown.

He wore plain, likely itchy, coarsely-made
breeches, and a shirt with sleeves so short his forearms were bare,
revealing soldier’s tattoos, the work of a tiny needle and ground
up bark and hours of patience and pain. Chainmail glinted at his
neck.

Though Bertie could see no visible wounds,
his heart pounded for one moment at the sight of the tarnished
metal links. He had to blink away the vision of blood, of lives
lost and blades buried in flesh, and held back his gasp with
unappreciated effort. When he had, mostly, composed himself, he
looked back up.

There were lines at the corner of Godric’s
eyes, lines Bertie had not seen before, lines not there when Bertie
had last leaned toward him to offer a painfully respectful
farewell. Seeing them hurt in the way that Bertie was used to
hurting around Godric, his chest sore as though it was bruised and
his body shaking with helplessness. He wanted nothing so much as to
run to Godric and hold him until he felt as strong as Godric
looked, until those cracks at Godric’s eyes went away and never
returned.

Instead he swallowed and silently burned
with the effort to keep still as Godric looked him over; Bertie was
a spoiled creature, it was true, but he would not like to force
himself on Godric, again, simply because that was what
he
wanted. Or, at least not when he was a dirty wreck. He recalled
himself and his scraps of dignity enough to nod a greeting as he
could not seem to force out a sound.

“My lord,” Godric spoke in his low, quiet
voice, as warm and solid as a hearthstone. “I am happy to find you
alive and unharmed.” That was all, but Bertie reveled in it. He had
often wondered if his ever-silent Godric had learned to make his
words rare in a court that mocked his low birth. His origin was in
his accent for all to hear, although no one in this tent seemed to
find it worthy of scorn. Not one eyebrow in the room was
raised.

With no one then to glare at on Godric’s
behalf as there often was in Camlann, Bertie had no choice but to
stare back at Godric. He did not mind. Godric might have been
short, but he was thick with hard-earned muscle and his skin spoke
of health and sunshine. Health. Bertie thanked the gods.

Bertie had been younger and sheltered behind
Camlann’s walls the last time the invaders had come, but he had
heard the stories of what they had done to anyone who had defied
them, stories enough to give old soldiers pause and leave others
trembling with remembered terror.

But for now, Godric lived. Inside Bertie was
pure joy, white like the heat of weapons being forged. Godric was
alive and in front of him and had not been captured or tortured or
killed.

Thus, because Bertie was not only a fool but
a fool in love, what finally emerged from his mouth was, “You grew
the beard again” and a small
tut
of despair.

He could have bitten his tongue.

In truth, he did not mind the short beard on
Godric’s face, though it was rare to see a nobleman unshaven. It
was simply a long-standing, friendly jest between them, or so he’d
thought, begun years ago with Godric riding alongside Bertie on the
trail to the Keep while Bertie had pestered him with a thousand and
one questions.

The others assembled in the room seemed
shocked at the perceived rebuke. Godric, praise the Lady, merely
scratched at his chin. It was his custom to forgo shaving when
travelling, as they both knew. What was necessary to belong amongst
courtiers was not so on the road, as he had once told Bertie, and
then had reached out, letting his hand pass over Bertie’s skirts
without touching them, making a point without saying another
word.

Bertie’s skirts often confused others, but
he did not wear them to startle others or for comfort while
travelling. He wore his skirts because he pleased to. Just as it
had pleased him to touch himself at the memory of Godric’s hand so
close to him, and what Godric might have done if he had loved
Bertie in return, if he would have lifted the layers of cloth to
bare Bertie’s skin, if he would use his mouth on his cock, or just
work him with one strong hand, if Godric would like the feel of
soft skirts against his stomach and thighs as Bertie rode him. He
had often wondered if Godric would speak more in bed, and what he
would say if Bertie begged to fuck him.

He was imagining it when Godric cleared his
throat to speak again, and Bertie could not help wetting his lips
again in delight at the sound of his voice.

“If my beard offends you, my lord…” Godric
started to say and Bertie took another step forward before
remembering himself and halting. Despite the lingering cold his
blood was suddenly pounding, heating his skin. He wrapped his arms
about his body to keep his hands safely away from Godric. He felt
his cheeks flush. He had not meant to mock Godric, yet once again
he had publically embarrassed the man.

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